ABI calls for ‘radical action’ to improve young driver safety

9th October 2012

Young drivers should be forced to undertake a minimum 12-month learning course before embarking on their driving test, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has stated.

Otto Thorensen, director general of the ABI, called for "radical action" to improve the safety of young drivers, and in particular those aged between 17 and 24.

Mr Thorensen said: "A car is potentially a lethal weapon, and we must do more to help young drivers better deal with the dangers of driving."

He suggested that improving driving among the young would also help to cut the cost of insurance, as companies would view them as lower risk.

The ABI has also hinted that young learners should not be able to pass their test if they have only embarked on an intensive driving course and have had no other lessons.

In addition, the organisation suggested that the driving age should be lowered from 17 to 16 and-a-half.

Once a young person has passed their test, the ABI is suggesting that they should have restrictions on their license.

Limitations may include not allowing driving between 11pm and 4am, unless it was for work, lowering the blood alcohol limit,and restricting the number of passengers.

The restrictions, known as graduated driver licensing, have been introduced in New Zealand, Australia and in some states in the US.

Research carried out by Cardiff University suggested that the scheme could prevent 200 deaths and 1,700 serious injuries annually.

Dr Sarah Jones, lead researcher, said: "Graduated driver licensing works in other countries and there's no good reason why it wouldn't work here."

In New South Wales, Australia, new drivers are required to display P plates for two years after passing their test.

They are also required to observe additional speed limits and a zero alcohol policy.

Meanwhile, in California young motorists are banned from driving at night and are not allowed to carry passengers under the age of 20.

Mr Thorensen said: "We have all side-stepped this issue for too long. Northern Ireland is introducing reforms, and politicians in Westminster should follow their lead in introducing meaningful reform to help today’s young drivers become tomorrow’s safer motorists".

The scale of the problem has been highlighted by statistics revealed by the ABI, which show that one in three fatalities on British roads involves drivers under the age of 25. This is despite the fact that only one in eight of people who hold a driver’s license is aged 25 or under.

Marmalade, a company which specialises in young driver insurance, has welcomed the ABI’s proposals, but has suggested that technology which tracks driver behaviour may help improve matters further.

Nigel Lacy, director of marketing at Marmalade, said: "Technology, in the form of in-car telematics, allows young drivers to take responsibility for the way they drive and their cost of insurance. It allows the young driver to say, 'I am a safe driver and want to pay for my risk, not for the bad drivers in my age group'."

The technology will track how a driver accelerates, takes corners and brakes, and the safest motorists will receive the cheapest car insurance.

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